John Stott was an Anglican writer and student of the Scriptures.
Christianity Today reprinted a sermon he gave on “Four Ways Christians can influence the world.”
Then, someone asked on Twitter, and @Copticorphans retweeted: “How does this apply to Copts in Egypt?” How can Copts move “beyond mere survival” to more truly become salt and light in society around them?
Here is an excerpt from the sermon:
Beyond Mere Survival
In the vast majority of cases, [upper-class, North American churches] describe poverty differently than the poor in low-income countries do. While poor people mention having a lack of material things, they tend to describe their condition in a far more psychological and social terms than our North American audiences. Poor people typically talk in terms of shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness. North American audiences tend to emphasize a lack of material things such as food, money, clean water, medicine, housing, etc. As will be discussed further below, this mismatch between many outsiders’ perceptions of poverty and the perceptions of poor people themselves can have devastating consequences for poverty-alleviation efforts.
Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts, 54
What do you think? Can just focusing on material problems actually hurt the poor? How?
Relationships are where transformation happens. Transformational Development focuses on the development of personhood in community and through community, understanding that the Holy Spirit works in both persons and communities through relationships.
That’s why Coptic Orphans is a volunteer-based, and church-based organization. Church-based volunteerism sets the stage for the most authentic relationships possible: those relationships are rooted in the deepest parts of life, the liturgical life together, and are without ulterior motive. And so the role of Coptic Orphans, as a Transformational Development NGO, is to maximize the impact of those relationships through its professional expertise.
Chris Sudgen at Oxford says it well:
Communities operate through institutions. We cannot access the community as a whole without working through entities and institutions. These institutions are rooted in the culture. They belong. NGOs are not mediating institutions. So how do we work with mediating institutions? The Church is a mediating institution, part of the community landscape, committed to the community, rooted in the culture. [The role of NGOs] …should be to encourage the church to be holistic, to build up its life, and to be a part of it. (“Transformational Development: Current State of Understanding and Practice,” Transformation 20:2, (April 2003) p. 72)